Barack Obama: The Bully in the Pulpit

Jonathan Sacks, in his extraordinary book The Great Partnership: Science, Religion and The Search for Meaning says “Power is to be used not to impose truth, but to preserve peace.” As I read that line, it became clear to me why the Obama Presidency is a failure and will be remembered as such.

powerBeginning with then candidate Obama’s promise in 2008 that we were “five days away from a fundamental transformation of America” through President Obama’s forced passage of Obamacare to his current unrelenting push to allow potentially dangerous refugees into the country, his trail of achievements have been an exercise in imposing truth, his truth, upon an unsuspecting, unwilling and at times resistant nation.

Because this President has merged power and force within his own mind, and justified the merger, he sees no bar to imposing his personal will despite the fact that he was elected under a Constitution that prohibits such unilateral action.

President Obama misused the power of the office he was granted to impose his truth whenever and wherever he sought to impose it; but of greater significance is the fact that, by so doing, he failed to apply that power to its rightful purpose: to preserve the peace.

And so, what seven years of the misuse of power has brought us is a more dangerous world, both foreign and domestic. No one could dispute the fact that the world is a more dangerous and less peaceful place than it was at the outset of the Obama Presidency. ISIS and the resulting Syrian refugee crisis speak for themselves, as does Putin’s alliances with Iran and the Russian energy-dependent foothold he is establishing throughout Europe. Our nuclear deal with Iran is a fiasco and a dangerous one entered into for the sole purpose of giving this President a longed for foreign policy “legacy.” Israel, a bastion of Western values and the only stable democratic nation in the region, is in a more tenuous and vulnerable position as a result of President Obama’s personal disdain for its Prime Minister.

Domestically, the President has failed to effect the preservation of peace as well. Race relations are at a new low with bullying and violence the tools of the trade for those seeking to exploit the example set by the President …based upon his truth that we are a racist nation and our police are brutal, homicidal and corrupt.

Personally, each of us has less peace of mind in our own lives because, in addition to the above stated, the economy is built upon a fiction and we can sense the inevitable chaos and loss that is forewarned now by even the most conservative economic advisors.

Yes, President Obama is a failure because he was entrusted with the power to preserve peace and, instead, he squandered that power to satisfy his own egoic needs and impose his own truths. Such is not the hallmark of a leader but rather that of a bully. Noteworthy leaders are found throughout our history and the stories of greatness we tell to inspire future generations. Bullies fade into oblivion leaving nothing of substance behind but unpleasant memories of the poor choices they made and the harm they caused along the way.

Yes, it will be remembered that President Obama had, for a time, a bully-pulpit… a rare opportunity that he squandered to, instead, become a bully.


The Refugee Problem Isn’t US It’s IS

Lately, I’ve been thinking about false narratives and it came to me that what we as a nation have been sold is exactly that: a false narrative. The narrative is that we are a racist society that has not moved much beyond Jim Crow laws and the segregation that preceded the 1950’s. Further, because we are a racist society, the latest manifestation of that racism is our unwillingness to accept Syrian and other Middle Eastern refugees during, what is for them, a time of crisis. This act of national, collective flagellation has divided into two fictitious camps: those who believe they are standing up against minority discrimination and those who don’t care about it at all.


This division is turning to hatred of one another.

In Kabbalah, mystical Judaism, one of the gravest sins we can commit is what is termed “baseless hatred.” This is hating someone for no reason at all. Because the division that now plagues us as a culture is based upon a fiction, we have been reduced to that very state of baseless hatred of one another.

I say the narrative is a fiction because there is an undeniable and unbridgeable gap between the reality of what is versus that which is being thrust upon us by people and organizations with a political agenda.

Institutional racism has not been a problem in this country for decades. Yes, there remain individuals who hate others simply because they are different (this will likely always be so) and there have been inequities in our judicial system in terms of arrest and sentencing that yet need to be corrected. But minorities in this country, be their skin be black, yellow, or brown, have the ability and yes, even the opportunity, to education and employment that far exceeds anything like their prospects anywhere else in the world.

What the politicians have conflated in your minds is the justified Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s with the unjustified outrage and demands of the Black Lives Matter movement. Having convinced you that they are the same, they pushed you one step further to believing that reasoned caution, in properly and fully vetting refugees from a part of the world where terrorists are successful in infiltrating and remaining undetected in refugee camps, is racism.

Nothing could be further from the truth; but truth has become irrelevant, dispensable and subservient to lies.

Both the Statue of Liberty and the WWII refugee ship “St. Louis” have been raised recently as arguments in support of currently allowing Syrian refugees into this country. In fact Ellis Island, which stands in the shadow of Lady Liberty, was the verification point for all immigrants in order that none enter the country and do anticipated or otherwise avoidable harm. If you were a Nazi you did not knowingly come through Ellis Island just as if you had tuberculosis you were similarly turned away. Ellis Island was intended to protect the nation from foreseeable harm…a notion that is now looked upon with mockery and derision.

The St. Louis had Jewish refugees from Nazi slaughter and the ship was shamefully turned away from our shores resulting in most of the passengers dying in concentration camps. It is a blight upon the nation. However, ask yourself how many Nazi’s intending to kill Americans had infiltrated the St. Louis or how many Jews were members of the Third Reich. None is the likely answer. Yet, IS terrorists have infiltrated refugee camps and are intending to use that infiltration here, as the just did in Paris, to kill Americans. So the St. Louis is yet another false premise for dividing us.

You have been convinced that you are the problem. Your narrow mindedness, your bigotry, your selfishness, your racism is the problem.

It is a lie.

Let me say with certainty that the problem is not US, the problem is IS. The problem is the Islamic State not the United States. The problem is actual terrorists who want to violently take over the world, not reasonable American citizens who want to protect our homeland.

The problem is that guilt and shame are tools being used as weapons, in advance of actual weapons, in order to create both figurative and literal paths of entry into American culture and, ultimately, America itself.

Do not allow yourself to be guilt-ridden or shamed. We are an honorable and generous people and the most charitable on earth. We are a brilliant experiment in political freedom and one doomed to fail only if we continue to follow the false narrative and turn upon one another.

Nothing and no one else can destroy our will to live in Truth and Light. We can, however, destroy ourselves by continuing to live the lie and refusing to feel our way out of the darkness.




ISIS is Half The Problem

Anyone who has ever been in a failing personal relationship or business knows that half measures only work to delay the inevitable. You cannot ignore the failings, or make restoration a part-time effort, without actually perpetuating an environment where failure grows exponentially. This reality applies to much more in life than personal relationships or individual businesses. Half measures generally get you a proportionate ROI.half measuresTake, for example, the financial crash of 2008 and Islamic extremism.

Last week, Christine Legarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced that the next financial crisis is coming because we failed to fully address the factors that caused the last one. What she is referring to is 1) the stimulus package bailout of the big banks; 2) propping up of corrupted financial institutions and, 3) the Federal Reserve’s endless printing of money. In fact, the money printing has led to new bubbles (remember the housing market?) and greater debt (18 trillion and growing monthly). The dollar, which all the experts told us could never be replaced as the global standard in oil and other transactions now finds China and Russia accepting, in direct transactions, currencies from other countries thereby bypassing the U.S. dollar.

In 2011, President Obama announced that U.S forces had killed Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. The President called it a milestone in the war against al Qaeda and terrorism. Al Qaeda was half the problem at the time. ISIS (a/k/a/ ISIL and IS) was the other half and it went relatively unnoticed and/or unaddressed.  And so, while the internal battle for control of radical Islam waged on, President Obama went about courting and supporting the wrong players (Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, for example) while alienating our allies (Israel, for example) and decreasing the size and effectiveness of our military. The President’s fecklessness led him to call ISIS, the victor in the Muslim internal terrorism battle, the “Jayvee team” and, most stunningly, declared “ISIS contained” on the day before that entity successfully pulled off a heinous and disastrous act of terrorism in Paris leaving hundreds dead and wounded. Such failure of leadership also keeps this President blind to, or in defiance of, ISIS’s stated intention to wreak the same destruction and havoc here on U.S. soil. Remember, bin Laden vowed to do the same years in advance of 9/11 and he was ignored at our peril.

Half measures have gotten us a proportionate ROI in both the financial markets and national security. When the next predicted crash occurs there will be panic. When ISIS, with terror cells already in the U.S. makes good on its promise, there will be panic.

In our naive, and in some ways cowardly, efforts to commit no more than half measures towards stopping corruption in the public and private sectors and standing against evil in the form of Islamic extremism, we have painted ourselves into the age-old corner where cultural and societal decline follow and physical extinction becomes a brutal reality.

President Ronald Reagan said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”

We are passing on to our children debt and servitude by way of our selfishness and cowardice. We will be held accountable both in their minds and hearts but also in the eyes of God.

President Obama is a false leader and our political system has become but an illusion of democracy. It is clear that this system, in its current condition, will not readily permit the rise of a true leader. Yet, there is still a window of opportunity for leadership to emerge that is both just and righteous. However, it will come from outside the broken system and it will take enough individuals with the courage to publicly stand in support of that leadership to override the corruption endemic within both parties.

Caution: Look not for leadership in bravado, hubris, empty promises or free stuff. Look to the individual who talks and walks their truth, who is brave enough to give us the truth and who is hopeful enough to inspire us to tackle adversity and, by so doing, once again become the best that we can be.


Interest Rates Turn Negative

We are fast approaching the point where banks are going to start charging depositors the right to deposit money in their own bank accounts. Let me explain

Money Losing Its Value

The economic growth over the last few years has barely moved, even though in 2008 the government flooded the markets with money and stimulus spending. The U.S economy should be doing much better; but it isn’t.

In a nutshell, what the Administration and the Federal Reserve tried to do was print a ton of money and have that huge influx of money raise the prices of everything. They believed that by doing so the banks, as well as the consumers, would be better off.  Because the banks were underwater on their real estate loans during this time, the governments plan was to inflate the prices of everything, including housing which would make the loans look better. So, if a bank had a loan on their books for $1,000,000 but the property was only worth $800,000, the banks were showing a loss of $200,00. In the Fed’s printing of money scheme, the hope was that the same property, for example, would inflate to $1,300,000 while still having the original loan of $800,000. Like magic, the banks would now be making money!

So, even though the banks’ balance sheets have improved, economic activity remains stagnant. The reason nobody wants to talk about is very simple: people are not spending money. Neither companies nor individuals are parting with their money. This results in the velocity of money  (the speed at which money circulates through the economy) being quite low.

When an economy and market are healthy, people will invest and spend. Consumers are willing to spend and invest more because they know they will be able to benefit from that spending. They are confident that their business prospects will be better in the future. But since individual and businesses know the economy is morbid, they are holding on to every dollar.

After all the changes since 2008, and the amount of money creation by the Fed, there is still very low turnover in money. Increased regulations in the banking sector as a result of the Dodd-Frank law, combined with the passage of Obamacare, has increased the regulatory burden for everyone and added to this problem.

These regulations, along with the thousands of others already on the book, are making it harder and harder for the economy to move forward. One way to think of the economy is to think of it analagous to a massive machine with many gears. Prices and economic activity move the gears in an efficient manner. But onerous regulations and rules are like pouring gallons of thick syrup onto the gears. The machine still works… but with drastically reduced efficiency and at a much slower rate. As that activity slows, the flow of money slows down as well.

This slowdown in the movement of money as well as the increased regulatory environment, is not only happening here but in the global economy as well. Interest rates have plunged across the globe, as banks have been flooded with cash from the creation of dollars. The banks, not wanting that money have begun to offer negative interest rates. For example Sweden has negative interest rates. In Sweden, when you deposit $100 into your the account, one year later you will have $99 dollars in that same account. They’re not paying you to save…they’re charging you to save!

Global governments are facing the same problem. Banks flooded with cash, consumers who won’t spend and poor economic activity. The “solution” rapidly approaching is to start charging consumers for their deposits so they are forced to take their money out of the banks.The hope behind this idea is that if they push all of this cash into the consumers’ hands they will start to spend it. An increase in the velocity of money will follow. Many economists fear this approach will result in explosive inflation.

The scenario laid out is that once consumers start to realize that inflation is rising, they will start to convert their dollars into hard assets such as homes, durable goods for example. They will figure out that its better to own an asset that is increasing in value rather than a dollar that is depreciating in value. The solution of changing dollars for hard assets will be their only protection against rapidly increasing prices.

Given the expansion of the size and power of governments throughout the world there is a corresponding need for them to control all aspects of our lives. From the printing of trillions of dollars to the heavy hand of government regulations, we are getting close to a tipping point that could have dire consequences.

The reduction of government regulations and a return to sound fiscal policies would do wonders for everyone everywhere. However it seems the likelihood of such a common sense approach slips further and further away each day as politicians’ egos seem to have inflated well in advance of currency.